NEWS | June 26, 2012

Living with wildlife

By Terrence Larimer Joint Base Charleston Natural and Cultural Resources manager

Joint Base Charleston is a unique place ... a place of aircraft, ships, cargo bays, naval munitions and wildlife. Although we may work with nuclear propulsion systems, space age technology and multi-million dollar aircraft, we do this surrounded by the natural world ... and all its inhabitants.

Our workplace is surrounded by large tracts of forest, miles of waterways, ditches, marsh, swamps and other wetlands. Because our work places and residences are close to natural areas, we may encounter our wildlife "neighbors" on a frequent basis. Most of these neighbors are not a threat. However some require caution and may call for some action on our part. Often when we encounter "nuisance wildlife," the best thing to do is just to leave these animals alone. Usually they will go back into whatever woods or water they emerged from. If they don't, or if they pose an eminent threat to people or pets, there are several options available to JB Charleston personnel.

On the Air Base side, in Forest City Hunley Park Housing, call Forest City at 552-0600. On the Naval Weapons side, in Balfour Beatty's MenRiv Housing area, call the City of Goose Creek's Animal Control at 572-4300. Outside of the JB Charleston housing areas, all nuisance wildlife calls on base should be directed to the JB Charleston Customer Service Number at 963-2692.

Because of limited personnel available to respond, calls for assistance should be limited to situations that involve potential harm to personnel, pets or the wildlife. Alligators or poisonous snakes in yards, playgrounds, workspace or buildings require immediate action to alleviate the threat.

Quick action is also called for when dogs, cats, raccoons, possums, foxes or other animals exhibit signs of rabies. Rabid animals may appear sickly or move awkwardly, foam at the mouth or be hyper: acting aggressive and or unafraid. Avoid contact with these animals and warn others in the area of the threat.

The warm weather and heavy rains have increased the number of snake sightings at JB Charleston. Outdoor enthusiasts should be cautious in areas where snakes may be active. Venomous snakes on JB Charleston include the Southern Copperhead, Eastern Cottonmouth and Canebrake Rattlesnake.

Most common are Cottonmouths, usually associated with wetlands and the Copperhead, most often found in brush piles, under logs or other trash. Extra caution is advised since recent heavy rains have flooded many low lying areas flushing these animals out into areas they are not normally found.

All other snakes are harmless and are in fact beneficial because they play an important role in controlling rats, mice and other pests. When snakes are seen, the best policy is to simply stay away. Most people are bitten when they inadvertently step on a snake or when attempting to kill or move poisonous snakes. Snakes are not aggressive unless they feel threatened and if left alone, they will leave you alone.

In case of snake bite call 911 or the base fire department (first responders) and community ambulances will respond. By standers should have the bite victim avoid exertion. Stay with the victim, reassure them and keep them warm if necessary. While waiting for transport, bitten limbs should be loosely immobilized in a functional position just below heart level. All rings, watches and constrictive clothing should be removed. All other out-of-hospital interventions (e.g., tourniquets, topical preparations, wound suction, cryotherapy and electrical shock) are of no proven benefit, may be harmful and could delay appropriate treatment.

As with many problems, the best solution is prevention. Do not feed wildlife either on purpose or by accident. Keeping lids on trash cansand dumpster and refuse container lids and doors closed will discourage wildlife in search of food. Outdoors, do not use an automatic feeder for your pets or put more food in their dish than they will eat at one feeding. Feed your pets before dark as most wildlife feed at or after dusk. Don't create a situation where your pets have to compete with wildlife for their dinner; they will probably lose, even if you have a fenced yard.

We can live with most animals. Wildlife outdoors generally moves on, especially if there is no food source. Often, our presence alone will cause them to seek refuge elsewhere. More often than not, when animal or pest controllers are called, by the time they arrive the animal is gone and was perhaps not a serious problem in the first place. Learn to recognize wildlife that poses an actual threat, report these and try to enjoy living among animals that are not a threat.